The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Multiplayer has arrived in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind thanks to a project based on the fan-made replacement engine OpenMW [official site]. Earlier versions of the TES3MP side-project previously only supported PvP, as NPCs wouldn’t synchronise between players, but now you and your pals can roam the land, messing with NPCs and questing and murdering and whatever else you might fancy. This is a huge step. TES3MP also supports scripting so people can fiddle with the game and even make custom modes; one alpha tester already made a Battle Royale mode. (more…)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Like the rest of Earth’s population, I had a wonderful time with Skyrim when it released in 2011, and for hundreds of hours afterwards. Then one fateful Sunday I realised I’d spent six hours smithing weapons and mining for ore, and decided it was probably time to stop playing now. 

It turns out I got off the train early: in the intervening years the modding community has gone from strength to strength, doing its best to keep The Elder Scrolls V looking like it was released last week. With Skyrim Special Edition’s arrival in 2016 those modders have a new and improved base game to work with, and the results are getting seriously close to the hyperbolic promises made in my YouTube sidebar. ‘PHOTOREALISTIC SKYRIM: INSANE MOD!’ they shout. And ‘ULTIMATE SKYRIM GRAPHICS 2017’. And ‘Justin Bieber FORGETS words to "Despacito" LIVE’, although I’ll concede that’s not immediately pertinent here.

Curiosity got the better of me. Exactly how good can you make Skyrim look these days, using Special Edition as the new baseline and cherry-picking the finest community-made visual mods? Deadendthrills achieved a frankly fearsome level of fidelity with the original version, but years have passed since then and graphics cards have gained multiple zeros on all their spec sheets. Is it possible to get Skyrim looking so realistic that it takes a second for your brain to distinguish it from reality?

The results of my own personal quest surprised me: not only did I get the game looking beautiful enough that I want to play it all over again, but those gorgeous graphics mods have fundamentally changed the way I play now.

Click for the full 5K image.

Finding the right mods

There’s a particular alchemy to selecting a series of mods that work well together. Very often one mod will want to overwrite another’s files, or there’ll be some overlap between seemingly disparate mods (like a snow replacer and a water overhaul) which will end up cancelling each other out. I’ll throw my hands up at this point and admit I let YouTube’s sizable Skyrim mod content creator community do the hard work for me on this front. Taking the recommendations of Fevir, NcrVet, Ultimate Immersion, and others, I compiled a list of texture mods, weather mods, flora overhauls, water improvements, armours, and NPCs—in addition to essentials like the Static Mesh Improvement Mod—that looked believable, consistent with Skyrim’s world, and above all, beautiful.

Personal preference is the ultimate deciding factor in any mod list like this, but to make Skyrim SE look like my screenshots, these are the ones to use:

Immersive Armors - Really high-quality, high-resolution and lore-friendly apparel for NPC and player alike.

ApachiiSkyHair SSE - In all honesty the vanilla hairs were fine by me, but this hair overhaul is required by Diversity (see below).

Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch - If you only install one mod, make it this. It squashes bugs and refines things you never noticed were broken or clunky before. It won’t make your game look better, but your experience will be much more polished.

Realistic Water Two - A water overhaul that improves everything from transparency effects to foam texture resolution and coloring. I like the watercolor version, but that’s just my preference.

Verdant - A Skyrim Grass Plugin - Fills the outdoors with wonderful grasses, mosses, ferns, bushes and flowers to frolic in. One of the most immediately transformative mods on the list.

Vivid Weathers - I tried out a few different weather mods, and Dolomite Weathers nearly prevailed, but to my eye Vivid Weathers produces the more realistic lighting conditions in conjunction with the lighting mods below and my chosen ENB (more on that later).

Cutting Room Floor - A lot of unused assets were found in Skyrim’s code after release, probably relics of content that Bethesda ran out of time to include. This mod puts it all back into your game, and is required by several other mods.

Simply Bigger Trees SE - Sprawling new four-hour expansion which… just kidding. It makes the trees bigger.

Forgotten Retex Project - Improves the textures of commonly found items and quest items.

LeanWolf’s Better-Shaped Weapons SE - Turns the vanilla weapons into artisanal masterpieces. You can see the individual marks on each blade and the texture where it’s been hammered into shape. Incredible. Works well with Immersive Armors to make the game feel new (and look new in screenshots).

Nordic Snow - Improves snow textures to higher-resolution images, simply. 

Ruins Clutter Improved - Like Forgotten Retex Project, this mod improves a lot of the incidental items used as set dressing throughout Skyrim—specifically, in this case, those found in dungeons and caves.

Skyrim 2017 Textures - Another hugely transformative mod, with enormous scope. Retextures much of the wild and several cities up to 4K. Use this as your base retexturing mod, upon which other more specific textures can be added.

Skyrim Flora Overhaul SE - More lovely plant life to populate Skyrim’s once brown and barren tundras. It’s compatible with Verdant, but be careful which files you overwrite when installing. Load Verdant after this to get the best from both mods. 

Static Mesh Improvement Mod - SMIM - An absolutely staggering piece of work which improves the 3D modelling of items and architecture throughout Skyrim. 

Diversity - An NPC Overhaul - Diversity completely changes the appearance of every NPC in Skyrim. The end result is a slightly disconcerting uniform attractiveness, but if you’re sick of everyone you encounter looking like Danny Trejo this is the mod to fix it.

Enhanced Lighting for ENB (ELE) - Special Edition - It’s not an ENB, but more of a pre-ENB lighting mod which changes light values so that all lights look better after you apply an ENB. To be honest I’m not sure whether I have this working with the below mod or whether one is cancelling the other out, but I’m really pleased with the end result so I’m too scared to upset the apple cart.

Enhanced Lights and FX - Removes all lights that don’t have sources, and modifies the values for the lights that do. That means it gets really dark outside at night and in unlit areas of dungeons. It also means, together with all the other mods in this list and my chosen ENB/Reshade, the lighting always looks believable. 

Enhanced Textures Detail - An incredibly clever mod that doesn’t overwrite any of your current textures but instead uses actual magic to make them look nicer in your game. Magic or .ini file values, at least.

Using the Nexus Mod Manager to install these mods and set their load order is basically essential. It’s theoretically possible to do it all manually, but in the time it would take you to modify the .ini files correctly and ensure the right files live in the right locations, you could have coded The Elder Scrolls VI from scratch. It also affords you the advantage of swapping particular mods in and out to observe their effects.

On to the installation.

Click for the full 5K image.

Choosing an ENB

Initially I was almost disheartened when I installed this giant list of mods, loaded my game, and found a familiar-looking Skyrim staring back at me. The textures were much improved, yes, and the landscapes populated by much more realistic plant life. But it didn’t look like a generational shift. It was still recognisable, and that was exactly what I wanted to avoid. Applying an ENBSeries preset, a popular community lighting mod available for games like Fallout, Skyrim, and Grand Theft Auto, would change all that in an instant.

You’ll hear it said a lot among the modding community, but there’s no more dramatic change you can enact on your game than applying an ENB to it. Therefore, my particular pick would be paramount. There are so many competing ‘photorealistic’ or ‘next-gen’ variants of Boris Vorontsov’s famous lighting mod that you could lose days watching those transitional wipe videos on Youtube demonstrating them all, but in the end I landed on one I was very happy with: the catchily named PhoenixVivid ENB Reshade. While the majority of ENBs feature way too much contrast and bloom for my taste, this one works beautifully with Vivid Weather and my existing lighting mods. It produces dramatic but believable lighting conditions at any time of day, indoors or outdoors, and also exaggerates the depth-of-field and ambient occlusion effects for a more cinematic view.

Click for the full 5K image.

Downsampling

At this point Skyrim started throwing out some really impressive imagery, so it was time to take things to the extreme. GeDoSaTo from Peter “Durante” Thoman will let you render games at resolutions far exceeding your monitor’s native output, and then ‘downsample’ the image so that it fits back on your screen. But you likely already know that, because you’re reading an article about making Skyrim look photorealistic. The question, really, is how much closer it can bring us towards that goal. 

My monitor’s native resolution is a slightly unusual 2560 x 1600, so I used GeDoSaTo to render Skyrim at twice that: a retina-seducing 5120 x 3200. All those high-res texture replacements really come into their own at this resolution, and the confluence of ENB, mods, and resolution produced natural landscapes that approached photorealism, given the right framing. 

It’s a frame rate killer, of course. My specs (GTX 1070, i7 2600K, 16GB RAM) were no match for that downsampled resolution and could only render the game at around 14fps. Attempting a 12K resolution resulted in a single-figure frame rate, which was frankly too unwieldy even for screenshot-hunting.

Click for the full 5K image.

Making Skyrim playable again

My longstanding reservation with mod collections like this when I see them elsewhere is: yes, but is it actually playable? There’s fun to be had by being a photojournalist in Skyrim and scouting out the best locations for screenshots, but after you’ve spent all that effort imbuing all that beauty into the game, it’d be a shame if you didn’t actually play it. 

I was able to pull it back to around 45 fps (I know, I know) by disabling downsampling and making use of BethINI. Simply put, it’s a handy tool that modifies your prefs.ini file and comes with new graphics presets which really boost performance. Using BethINI’s ‘ultra’ preset is much kinder to frame rates than the vanilla ‘ultra’ setting, without compromising any visible fidelity. 

Meaningful gameplay improvements

I was surprised by how far I could push Skyrim, which is another way of saying I was surprised by the sheer talent and enduring commitment of the modding community. What surprised me even more, though, was that the concessions I made on my photorealistic screenshot quest actually improved the gameplay experience, too. 

Firstly: play without the HUD. Really. I disabled it just to take screenshots at first, and my inherent laziness meant that it stayed disabled while I played. I soon found that not having a bunch of quest markers, a crosshair, dialogue subtitles and health meters is, to use the Skyrim modder’s favourite word, a hugely immersive experience. Archery was suddenly satisfying again, and in the absence of a big quest arrow guiding me forth I engaged with the environments properly, looking for signposting cues and navigating using landmarks. 

All my efforts to produce realistic lighting changed the way I played, too. Suddenly going out at night without a torch was a terrible idea (a mechanic I always loved about Dragon’s Dogma), and certain areas of caves and dungeons were simply pitch black unless I illuminated them. It meant I had to treat lighting like a game mechanic, like Skyrim had suddenly become a Thief game. 

Having those little moments of revelation as I realised I had to play the game differently was a wonderful thing. It’s inspired me to go through Skyrim all over again, which is what I always secretly hoped the right collection of mods would do. And now as I do it, I’ll perpetually be on the lookout for killer screenshots.

PC Gamer

The Creation Club was Bethesda’s most contentious E3 announcement. A follow-up to Valve’s failed paid mods program, the Creation Club will allow third-party developers, including modders, to create sanctioned add-on content for Fallout 4 and Skyrim: Special Edition. This content will be sold through in-game marketplaces for Creation Club Credits, which can be purchased via Steam.

The short version is that it’s paid mods. Bethesda insists that the Club isn’t paid mods, but it is. Crucially, it’s also a dramatically improved version of paid mods. Many questions remain unanswered, but we do know that Bethesda will screen applicants, curate Club content and optimize everything themselves to prevent conflict between mods. Club content must also be original, meaning existing mods won’t suddenly cost money. Perhaps most importantly, Bethesda says “there will still be plenty of free mods as well.”

"At first I was against it, but after talks with some other modding friends I changed my mind."

Troy Irving, Fallout 4 modder

Assuming Bethesda follows through on these rules, the Club could actually be a positive development for modding. It’s not perfect; as our own Chris Livingston wrote, Club content would be better off free, with the store itself acting as a way to promote the best mods and compensate talented modders. In any case, it is a rare opportunity for modders to profit off their passion. 

With all of that in mind, I spoke to three of the top Fallout 4 and Skyrim modders from the NexusMods community to gauge their thoughts on the Club. As it happens, everyone I spoke to has already applied to be a Club creator.  

Improvements and inquiries

“At first I was against it, but after talks with some other modding friends I changed my mind and actually decided to put an application in,” says Troy Irving, creator of Fallout 4’s Settlement Supplies Expanded mod, which contains over 400 new objects and structures. “I saw it as another paid mods scenario, which was terrible the first time, but it’s a bit different this time around.” 

For Irving, the Club’s improved quality control process, coupled with the fact that existing mods cannot be sold, was a big draw. It protects his mods and ensures the market won’t become saturated with overpriced garbage like $10 golden potatoes (yes, Skyrim had those). Many modders feel the same, including Doug ‘Gambit77’ Shafer, best known for his Armorsmith Extended mod for Fallout 4. 

“It seems like they’re really taking all those problems from [Steam’s paid mods] and are trying to stamp them all out,” Shafer says. “With the curation process, I don’t see people stealing other people’s work and trying to sell it. Their policy of not allowing already released content will stop any possibility of thievery. People can’t steal other people’s identities and shit like that. It seems like they’ve thought it out quite a bit.” 

Certainly, the Club is head and shoulders above the system Valve proposed in 2015. But there are still holes in Bethesda’s proposal, one of the biggest being how modders will be paid. Will they receive royalties based on sales of their content or a flat rate based on the scope of their project? Do creators get to decide? The modders I spoke to were divided on what payment model they’d prefer. One thing they did agree on was what kind of content they expect to see en masse on the Club store, namely custom armor sets and weapons. 

“They don’t have much conflict with each other and they’re easy to put in,” says Brendan ‘Expired6978’ Borthwick, creator of Skyrim’s RaceMenu mod, which greatly enhances the game’s character creator. “I mean, I wouldn’t say they’re easy to make, but they’re easy to put in the game and install in your game.”

The advantages of a simple mod like a piece of gear are two-fold, Borthwick explains. Firstly, it’s just an item entry, so it doesn’t inherently conflict with other mods. Secondly, it would be easier to instantly generate in-game, which is one of the Club’s most-vaunted features—being able to buy a cool new sword and wield it within seconds. 

That being said, Borthwick is more interested in expanding Skyrim’s core features, such as its follower system. Irving wants to make improved and custom weapon animations for Fallout 4, whereas Shafer is interested in building some from-scratch armor sets. 

Above: Enderal is one of the most ambitious Skyrim mod projects to date, but it won't be sold on Creation Club.

The impact on free mods

 Bethesda says the Club will include myriad content, from weapons and apparel to new locations and NPCs. But there’s been no mention of total conversion mods like Enderal: The Shards of Order, despite the fact that such massive mods are arguably most deserving of a price tag. So, why is the Creation Club ignoring the grandest mods in the business? Well, Borthwick believes total conversions are actually too big. .

“I don’t know about seeing that sort of stuff as DLC,” he says. “Those would be heavy engine mods, so they’d have to actually update the executable of the game to do anything with that ... I don’t think that’s really the target of the Creation Club mods, because that isn’t something you can easily put into your game.” 

"We do this in our spare time. I don t do it to make donations or money, I do it because I want to do it."

Brendan Borthwick, Skyrim modder

Total conversion mods essentially build a new game out of an existing engine, so they wouldn’t mesh with existing Fallout 4 and Skyrim save files. To offer them via the Creation Club, Bethesda would have to sacrifice compatibility, which they’ve trumpeted from the get-go. Meaning total conversions will all but certainly remain free passion projects—as will plenty of other mods, according to everyone I spoke to. 

“I don’t think it’s going to have a major impact [on free mods],” Borthwick says. “People are still going to be making mods on Nexus, and not everybody is going to try and push mods on the Creation Club … I don’t think it’s going to be something where people are just going to jump ship and start uploading tons of mods and go completely paid.”

Shafer agrees. “I don’t really buy into all the doom and gloom,” he says. “I know myself, and there’s plenty of projects that I would still be working on that would be free projects. In fact, most of my stuff would still be. I can’t speak for everybody, but if I was part of it, it wouldn’t stop me from working on the bigger picture stuff.” 

The gist of the knee-jerk doomsaying which followed the Club’s announcement is that free mods will dry up as modders all sell their souls to Bethesda, but these experts are eager to continue producing free mods. The other common argument against the Club, and paid mods in general, is that involving money in any way somehow taints the spirit of modding. Shockingly, none of the modders I spoke with agree. 

“We do this in our spare time. I don’t do it to make donations or money, I do it because I want to do it,” Borthwick says. “At the same time, I’m spending a lot of my time to do this and get almost literally nothing out of it … Most people would say ‘go find another job,’ but if you like doing this, what’s wrong with getting paid to do it?”

Shafer points out that if modders are being paid, they’re more likely to take on larger and more ambitious projects. Similarly, Irving expects the Club to attract new and talented creators to the modding scene—people who do stellar work but don’t have time to work for free. All of which could result in more and better mods. 

Yes, Steam’s take on paid mods was a dumpster fire. Yes, Bethesda could have done a better job selling the Creation Club. (Dwarven mudcrab armor, which we lampooned in 2011, probably wasn’t the best headliner.) And yes, there are still lots of blanks that need to be filled. Even so, many modders are optimistic, not just because they may finally be paid for their time and effort, but because the Club may well benefit the modding community as a whole.  

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion® Game of the Year Edition - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

A corner of the world of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has arrived in Skyrim with the launch of Beyond Skyrim: Bruma [official site], a mod set around Cyrodil’s city of Bruma. Unlike the still-in-development mod remaking Oblivion inside Skyrim, this mod is telling new stories set around the time of Skryim – 200 years after Oblivion. As well as recreating and updating the Bruma region, it brings new quests, characters, weapons, armour, music, and all that, plus a whopping 24,000-ish lines of voiced dialogue from a cast including professional actors. Fancy! Here, check out this trailer: … [visit site to read more]

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Pity Skyrim's humble courier. He's charged with tracking you down in an incredibly dangerous fantasy world to deliver notes, letters, and quest instructions. While as the Dragonborn you're definitely recognizable, finding you as you race around the map killing monsters and looting dungeons can't be easy for the young man (though he does at times appear to be quite psychic), and the truly tragic thing is that this poor fellow doesn't even have his own place to live and rest between his deliveries.

Thankfully, celebrated Skyrim modder Arthmoor has stepped in with an equal dose of mod skills and empathy, and the Provincial Courier Service mod is the result, giving our favorite letter-carrier a proper home and base of operations. In it you'll find a desk, a bed, a dining area, a kitchen, and other creature comforts the courier can enjoy when he's not running all over the world trying to stick a letter in your pants.

The mod also provides an optional home delivery service, which means the courier can just bring his missives to your house (or one of your houses, if you're doing quite well) instead of materializing in your immediate vicinity, which certainly sounds like an improvement from his perspective. And, now that you can track him down for a change, you can also swing by his shack during your travels and collect your mail from him there. Everybody wins.

Okay, it's not a palace, just a humble abode, but we can all agree the fellow deserves it. You'll find the courier's new digs on the road outside Whiterun, and you'll find the mod, and the instructions on how to install it, on its page at Nexus Mods.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition

Just between you and me, the first time I played Morrowind it was on an Xbox. It was still a great game, but getting the PC version and being able to mod it made it even better. We praise it for being the last truly weird Elder Scrolls game, but we should also remember Morrowind as one of the clunkiest. To enjoy its mushroom trees and settlements built in dead insects meant putting up with rough combat, a leveling system that needed gaming, plenty of bugs, and a bit too much walking.

In the 15 years since its release modders have done an intimidating amount of work making Morrowind better. The best Morrowind mods are now spread over sites like Morrowind Modding History, the Morrowind Nexus, and Mod DB. Here's our collection of the greats, though even this list only represents the tip of a big iceberg. 

If you've never played Morrowind before it's worth trying unmodded to see which parts you'd most like to alter before diving in. It's also recommended to use a loader like Wrye Mash or Nexus Mod Manager to organize mods once you start. And even when using them, always read the installation instructions.

Table of contents

 Patches and tweaks 

Believe it or not, there were a few bugs in this Bethesda RPG. These mods fix those and greatly improve the fundamentals.

Morrowind code patch

Download link

A massive effort committed to fixing bugs and mistakes, from savegame corruption and missing objects to the in-game calendar not having the correct number of days in each month. There are plenty of optional changes, including modern resolutions and an over-the-shoulder version of the third-person view. The Morrowind Code Patch is also an essential foundation for the Tamriel Rebuilt mod, but can conflict with leveling mods like Galsiah's Character Development or Madd Leveler if you don't turn off skill/attribute uncapping when installing it. 

Tribunal Delayed

Download link

Bethesda isn't great at seamlessly inserting DLC into their games, and in Morrowind that manifests in Dark Brotherhood assassins trying to murder you in your sleep until you start the Tribunal expansion. If you're not interested in being assassinated at level one or surviving the attempt but then scoring assassin gear that's way too powerful for you, this mod puts off the nightly murder visits.

The Unofficial Morrowind Patch

Download link

Each Elder Scrolls game has one of these, tidying up hundreds of minor leftover bugs ranging from spelling errors in dialogue to problems with quest progression. If you've ever had a quest stuck in the journal after you've finished it, or noticed “Edryno” spelt “Edryon” this is for you. It also fixes a lot of errors relating to NPC barks playing in the wrong situation or not at all.

AltStart

Download link

If you're sick of the rigmarole of going through the Census Office at Seyda Neen every time you make a new character, this mod lets you race through character creation and then choose which of the island's ports to disembark at. It also puts some basic equipment in your inventory, suited to your skills.

Skyrim UI Overhaul for Morrowind

Download link

User interfaces have never been a strong point for Bethesda's open-world games. If looking at Morrowind's borders makes you miss the Skyrim color scheme and slightly cleaner look, this mod adds that while keeping the basics of the UI the same.

Getting around

Why run when you can run really fast? New methods of transportation and tweaks to existing methods make life in  Morrowind less tedious.

Andromeda's Fast Travel

Download link

When you're crossing the Ashlands for the fifth time or bouncing back and forth between distant NPCs for certain quests, you really need a more convenient way to travel than a muddled network of giant fleas. This mod makes roadside signs into fast travel points. Look at the sign pointing to your destination, press spacebar, and you'll arrive with six hours added to the clock. Mods that add new landmass can make it a bit hinky and I did once travel to Gnisis only to find myself stuck in the middle of the ocean, but it's still worthwhile for journeys free of Cliff Racers.

Run Faster—Faster Running Speed

Download link

Another way to speed up Morrowind is to increase the running speed, which makes a mockery of the incremental increases to the Speed stat you can buy at level-up but is worth it to reduce a lot of the slog. There are multiple speeds to choose from, with Fastest a solid choice if you want to run like a Looney Tunes character but still be able to see the world as you zip past it.

Silt Striders

Download link

Cool as it is having giant fleas that can be steered by twiddling their central nervous systems hanging around settlements, the Silt Striders always seemed underused in Morrowind. With this mod you can actually see them travel across the land when you hire one, though they're less jumpy than I expected. Their speed is adjustable in case you want to zip over to Vivec but don't have half an hour to watch scenery go by.

Sell N Sail Galleon

Download link

If walking up to a ship's captain and asking for a lift to Ebonheart isn't doing it for you, Sell N Sail makes both a small boat and an expensive galleon (205,000 septims!) available for purchase. The galleon has a fancy below decks area you can make your new home, and both craft can be sailed around via slightly fiddly controls. Buy them from the island just off Gnaar Mok.

Melian's Teleport Mod

Download link

The Mark and Recall spells are essential for returning to out-of-the-way locations, like your home once you build one or that mudcrab merchant with loads of gold. Normally you can only have one place Marked at a time, but Melian's Teleport Mod lets you cast Mark as much as you like and name each one individually.

Visual overhauls

Morrowind's showing its age after 15 years, but these mods go a long way towards maintaining its otherworldly beauty.

Better Heads

Download link

The landscapes of Morrowind were impressive in 2002 and can still look surprising today, but the faces were always a mess. They look like photos stretched around cubes. Better Heads is one of many mods that improves the way faces look in Morrowind, an easy to use choice that's low on compatibility issues. However, if you're interested in other options with varying degrees of fidelity to the original looks, here's an old Comparison of NPC Head Replacers.

Better Bodies

Download link

While you're at it, maybe you'd like nicer body textures as well? These were based on high-res scans of the modders' own skin. There are versions that let you leave your medieval underwear on and also a nude version, though given that some enemies run around in their underpants that's more likely to be disconcerting than anything.

Visual Pack Combined and Mesh Improvements

Download link (Visual Pack Combined)

Download link (Mesh Improvements)

The easiest way to make Morrowind's buildings and scenery look better is with this combination of five existing texture packs. Follow that up with Mesh Improvements to get small objects like bowls and candles looking noticeably less angular.

Morrowind Graphics Extender XE

Download link

On a modern PC the draw distance option in the menu can easily be pushed to the max, rolling back Vvardenfell's fog. If you want to go even further the Morrowind Graphics Extender XE mod will let you see Vivec from Pelagiad with ease.

Skies Version IV

Download link

The ash storms, drifting clouds, and starry night skies can be made to look a lot prettier with this mod. It changes the way weather is rendered as well as replacing repeating sky meshes with unique ones, and there are multiple options for changing how you'd like the moons to look.

New locations and quests

It's a whole new world. Seriously: you can add enough content to Morrowind to keep playing it forever, and the ones we've highlighted here are the best of them.

Tamriel Rebuilt

Download link

Bethesda had planned for the entire nation of Morrowind to make it into the game, but focused instead on the island of Vvardenfell to its ultimate benefit. If you dream of exploring the mainland however this mod will let you do it, greatly expanding the map and adding some gorgeous new cities. The quests are a little rudimentary, but mostly you'll just want to explore all this new land.

The Underground

Download link

If you wish Morrowind felt more like Vampire: The Masquerade, then your dream's come true. The Underground is a questline based around a nightclub for the undead hidden in the Balmora sewers, where sexy vampires will send you on quests and one of them can even be romanced. From the moment the club starts blaring songs by The Beastie Boys and Garbage you'll feel a long way from the atmosphere of Morrowind, but it's goofy, gothy fun nonetheless. You'll want additional mods that add a walkthrough book, and if you finish the questline one that clears up a couple of lingering issues like, oh, infinitely spawning spiders.

Immersive Madness

Download link

The kookiness of The Shivering Isles (a classic Oblivion add-on) has inspired mods for several Elder Scrolls games, and Immersive Madness is the Morrowind equivalent. It lets you join the cult of the Madgod Sheogorath by visiting their shrine south of Molag Mar where you'll find quests to recover an Orc's stolen buttocks, defeat a rock and then a puddle, win a staring contest against a rival cult, and other similarly wacky missions.

Morrowind Rebirth

Download link

Once you've played Morrowind long enough it stops feeling uncanny and becomes familiar. To regain some of that feeling, try the complete overhaul Morrowind Rebirth. Each settlement is recognizable but different, with more houses and NPCs. There's also new equipment, creatures, music, and more. Morrowind Rebirth on its own is enough to make another playthrough worthwhile.

Official Plugins

Download link

If you got Morrowind from GOG it will already have this selection of plugins made by Bethesda. If not you can grab them from the Nexus, either individually or collected. They include quests to restore the propylon travel network and take an island fortress back from the undead, more armor, arrows, and sounds, and an option to entertain the drinkers at the Eight Plates in Balmora.

Arktwend and Myar Anath

Download link (Arktwend)

Download link (Myar Anath)

SureAI are a German team you may know for their Oblivion total conversion mod Nehrim, or Enderal for Skyrim. Arktwend and Myar Anath were where they started, total conversions that replaced Vvardenfell with a slightly more traditional fantasy world, though one with some gothic touches. They're not as polished as Enderal—you'll get killed by huge mobs of enemies a lot and hear some characters speak German even with the English patches—but they're still impressive achievements.

Creatures and NPCs

Inject more life into Morrowind, and make those critters prettier, to boot. 

Better Dialogue Font and Less Generic NPCs

Download link (Better Dialogue Font)

Download link (LGNPC)

If you're sick of squinting at the font for Morrowind's dialogue, journal, and menus then the Better Dialogue Font mod ups the resolution on all of them. Meanwhile, if you're sick of NPCs rehashing the same paragraphs of information the Less Generic NPC project has been working to give every character their own dialogue, which is a heck of an undertaking.

Better Beasts

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In the spirit of Better Bodies and Better Heads, this adds new textures for lizard-people and cat-people, making the Argonians and Khajiit look plenty nicer. If you're playing as one you'll have a few new head options as well.

Morrowind Children

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Bothered by the absence of kids? Ma'iq the Liar would like a word with you. If you need to have rugrats running all over the place this mod will do it for you, though as with all mods that add NPCs en masse it can cause slowdown and they absolutely will get stuck between you and a door at some point.

Morrowind Advanced

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Bethesda staff member Gary Noonan, known to modders as WormGod Elite, made Morrowind Advanced to add more challenging encounters. It rebalances existing creatures as well as adding new ones like Centurion Rippers and Giant Earth Golems, and eventually you'll have to deal with high-level raiders too. A few new dungeons and some new equipment thrown into rebalanced loot tables round it out.

Creatures Version XI

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Adding new animals to Vvardenfell is tricky because the existing ones are so alien. Horses would just feel wrong. Modder Piratelord walks a fine line in new additions that feel appropriate to the setting like the Ash Poet and Land Dreugh as well as more vanilla creatures added sparingly, like moose and butterflies. As an added bonus this mod makes Cliff Racers less aggressive the more of them you kill so that eventually the damn things will leave you alone.

Combat and Skills

Overhaul Morrowind's clunky combat with some some welcome changes, like removing the dice roll behind each melee strike and increasing the pace at which you accrue skill points. Now go out there and be a warrior.

Faster Skill Increases

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One of the more straightforward balance tweaks available, with Faster Skill Increases all it takes is a single attack or a few seconds of running or jumping to make the relevant skills go up. You'll get sick of the angelic sound that plays with each increase, but you'll also be able to tackle the interesting quests a lot quicker without grinding around in Ratmurder Town forever.

Oblivionized Magicka Regeneration

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Even if you're not playing a spellcaster you'll want access to the occasional Levitate to cross a mountain or Mark and Recall to bounce back to a quest-giver. Wizards have to nap a lot in Morrowind though, because magicka regenerates at a glacial pace. If you're not ideologically opposed to the idea of making Morrowind more like Oblivion, this mod borrows its rate of magicka replenishment and honestly it's a godsend.

Accurate Attack

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Whether an attack hits or misses in Morrowind is based on a random roll behind the scenes based on your skill. In a more abstract RPG that's fine, but in a 3D one where you can see that spear hit someone to then be told by the math that it whiffs it can be jarring. With Accurate Attack any blow that looks like it hits actually hits.

Projectile Overhaul

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The lovely, thunky speed of arrows in Skyrim was inspired by a mod for Oblivion that made them less dodgeable but much more fun to shoot. Projectile Overhaul puts some of the same arrow juice into Morrowind, increasing the velocity of everything you can launch, including throwing knives, shuriken, and spells.

Madd Leveler

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Install Madd Leveler to take away the worry about effectively leveling and grinding the appropriate skills, as it'll do all that for you. Madd Leveler raises attributes based on which skills you've been using and does it quietly in the background so you don't even notice. There's also Galsiah's Character Development, which is a bit more complicated and can be restrictive if you're trying to play the kind of hybrid character who doesn't fit a single class.

TESIII Sneaking Realism

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Each Elder Scrolls game makes sneaking a little less ridiculous, but even in Skyrim we're still crouch-walking invisibly in broad daylight because our skill's high enough. This mod doesn't make stealth perfect, but it does add modifiers based on the time of day, weather, what armor you're wearing, and whether you have a weapon out. It also increases sneak attack damage to x10 so it's worth all those potential penalties.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Richard Cobbett)

For a few horrible minutes during E3, it looked like Bethesda might seriously claim that The Elder Scrolls and Fallout were part of the same universe. Thankfully, not. Despite this being an era where Sony wants a Ghostbusters universe and Universal thinks demeaning the Universal Monsters by linking them with a top-sekrit monstah hunting group led by Dr Jekyll is anything other than schoolboy fan-fiction, Bethesda’s Pete Hines has been quick to go “What? No. No! No…>” Phew! Honestly, it’s bad enough that Daggerfall has six endings, ranging from the villain becoming a god to orcs being either defeated or victorious, and canonically all of them are true.>

But at a time when we’re seriously asked to pretend that “Dark Universe” is a thing we should want to see, that unholy union really wasn’t impossible…

… [visit site to read more]

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

In among the game announcements at E3 2017 Bethesda also announced Creation Club, “a collection of new game content for Skyrim and Fallout 4.” That content includes new weapons, armour, crafting and housing features, and changes to core systems, and you buy all of it in-game with ‘credits’ purchased for real money through Steam. Is this a new paid mods system? No, says the FAQ, “Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they d like.” … [visit site to read more]

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Richard Cobbett)

The sign of a truly hardcore world is that it has its own languages. Klingon. Dothraki. Elvish. The term for these is ‘Conlangs’ – aka ‘constructed languages’ – and whether you see them as a vital part of world-building or a joke-in-waiting on The Big Bang Theory (they’re due a third one one of these days), there’s more to them than just slapping together some uncommon syllables and hoping it sounds alien. Well, actually, that’s exactly> how Klingon started, but never mind. Done right, paying attention to language offers more than just another DVD extra. Or at least, it can do…

… [visit site to read more]

Garry's Mod

Achievement hunting on Steam is serious business. While Valve's storefront might not have Xbox's Gamerscore or PlayStation's Trophies, there are still plenty of PC gamers who appreciate the way Steam achievements challenge them to play games in new and interesting ways. Then there's the satisfaction of knowing you're one of just a small percentage of players who've explored every nook and cranny, maxed out every stat, or earned every gold medal a game has to offer. 

The thing is, a lot of Steam achievements are kind of boring. Kill 10,000 enemies, hit level 99 in every class, finish the game on Ultra Nightmare Hardcore difficulty—most of the objectives feel like they've fallen straight out of a free-to-play MMO's quest log. Even the rarest achievements are often little more than tedious grind fests, requiring you to play 500 online matches in a multiplayer game with no active player base, or fight alongside a game's developer when that developer has long ago moved onto their next project. 

These achievements aren't particularly fun to earn, let alone read about. But buried in Steam's massive catalog of games are some truly obscure, brutally difficult achievements that less than 0.1 percent of players have managed to accomplish. These are achievements worthy of the name. Most of us will never earn them, but we can dream.

Note: Total owners approximated from SteamSpy. Verified achievement stats through AStats.

Devil Daggers

Devil Dagger - Survive 500 secondsTotal Owners: 236,000 Completion Percentage: 0.1

For something you could complete in the downtime between Dota matches, frantic FPS Devil Dagger's one and only achievement has managed to defy 99.9 percent of players for well over a year now. That might seem odd given how simple its requirement sounds: all you have to do is survive for 500 seconds. I mean, I do that all the time. See. That last 500 seconds? I just survived that. 

But yeah. Surviving Devil Daggers is a wee bit tougher than running out the clock in real life. Despite the game selling for a mere fiver, just 0.1 percent of players have managed to avoid croaking for the 8 minutes and 20 seconds necessary to snag the 'Devil Dagger' achievement. Watching replays of those runs is equal parts mesmerizing and depressing, making it painfully clear just how amateur my own skills are. I could probably spend the next year playing nothing but Devil Daggers and still not come close to the graceful death-dealing of players like the world-record-smashing bowsr. When the apocalypse hits and the whole world goes to hell, I'll be the redshirt incinerated in the first ten seconds.

Crusader Kings 2

Not so Bad - Survive the End Times Total Owners: 1.4 million Completion Percentage: 0.1

Crusader Kings 2, champion of the grand strategy genre, is full of intricate, multi-layered achievements few players have managed to unlock. From installing a female ruler in the five baronies of the Orthodox Pentarchy, to trampling the Pope with a horde of elephants, over a dozen eclectic achievements are currently sitting at a completion rate of less than 0.1 percent.  

The one I want to shout out, though, is the 'Not so Bad' achievement awarded for surviving the End Times. Ostensibly, you unlock this achievement by surviving the rise of the Prophet of Doom and the Black Death he's convinced will destroy humanity. A Crusader Kings player going by the username Xolotl123 on Reddit, however, inadvertently earned themselves the achievement due to their investment in high-quality hospital care and their imprisonment of the Prophet for disturbing the peace. The Prophet then hanged himself, but not before sending the player a letter that read: 'If you are reading this letter, I am with God, or with Lucifer..., if so, then you were right. If not, then I was right.' 

I've not had the time to play Crusader Kings 2, but after reading this story, I think I'm going to have to clear my schedule. Any game where you can avert the End Times through hygiene is a winner in my book. 

Rising Storm / Red Orchestra 2

Bringing a sword to a sword fight – As an American soldier kill an Axis soldier wielding a Katana, with a Katana. Stick it to Tojo – As an Allied soldier, kill 100 Axis soldiers with a bayonet. Total Owners: 2.7 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.1 - 0.2

Rising Storm's focus on historically authentic, asymmetrical WWII combat means that, naturally, American soldiers do not spawn into the battlefield with katanas. In order to get one, you have to defeat a Japanese soldier who's carrying one. And in order to get the "Bringing a sword..." achievement, you then have to pick up their katana, find another Japanese soldier with a katana, and then defeat them with the weapon of their ancestors. It's a hard scenario to concoct in an FPS where rifles and grenades are the preferred way to fight.

Bit.Trip Beat

MEAT.BOY SMELLS - Get a perfect in 1-1 using only a game pad.Total Owners: 311,00Achievement percentage: 1.6

Heresy! An achievement that requires ditching the holy mouse and keyboard for a filthy gamepad? What does BIT.TRIP BEAT take us for, console players? Everyone knows a good M+K combo is the only way to play. Sure, it makes driving games a bit twitchy, and performing combos in third-person action games can be tricky without analogue sticks, and fighting games don't always work so great, and stealth sequences tend to be a little wonky with WASD…

Okay. So maybe gamepads aren't that bad. Still, locking an achievement to a specific piece of hardware is a surefire way to tick off achievement hunters. The BIT.TRIP devs found that out the hard way with the game's 'SIXTH.SENSE' achievement, which required players to beat a level using Razer's short-lived Sixense motion controller. The backlash to 'SIXTH.SENSE' drove the devs to delete the achievement from Steam completely, which technically makes it one of the rarest achievements out there. Not quite as rare as a game with motion controls that don't feel like total garbage, but still…

The Stanley Parable

Go outside - Don't play The Stanley Parable for five years Total Owners: 2.1 million Number of achievers: 2 verified through AStats (6.9 percent on Steam) 

Games are meant to be played—we usually take that much for granted. It's a little odd, then, when a game actively encourages you not to play it. Odd, however, is what The Stanley Parable's all about. I mean, one of the game's endings involves running back and forth between two buttons for four hours. And that's not to mention the pointed commentary on the nature of free will and the human tendency towards obeisance. Like I said, odd. 

The Stanley Parable's weirdest elements, however, are definitely its achievements. In addition to an achievement simply entitled 'Unachievable' (paradoxically earned by 3.9 percent of players), there's the 'Go outside' achievement that tasks players with not playing the game for five years straight. Since The Stanley Parable released in October 2013, no one can legitimately earn this achievement until October next year. Of course, that hasn't stopped some unscrupulous Steam users from setting their computer clocks forward to unlock the achievement early.  

Cheating to not play a game? I guess some people will do anything for their sweet cheevos. 

Garry's Mod

Addict - You have wasted a year of your life playing GMod! Total Owners: 13.2 million Number of achievers: 9 verified on AStats (1.8 percent on Steam) 

You can do a lot of things in the 8760 hours that make up a single year. You could play 105,120 matches of Rocket League. You could marathon the entire current run of The Simpsons—all 617 episodes—38 times over. You could hitch a ride on a rocket and fly to Mars, with enough time left over to plant the seeds of an interplanetary rebellion

You could also spend every one of those 8760 hours playing Garry's Mod in order to unlock the 'Addict' achievement. And when I say playing, I don't just mean booting up the game and letting it idle in the menu. You have to be connected to an active server for your time to count. Unsurprisingly, the hefty investment involved has kept the achievement's completion percentage at just 1.8 percent, even with achievement hunters over at AStats devising strategies for minimizing the resources used by Garry's Mod so you can leave it running in the background while you tend to other tasks. 

I have to wonder, though, how many people left their computers on while they were working or sleeping solely to unlock this achievement? At a modest estimate, 8760 hours' worth of electricity would cost roughly $210 USD, which is a whole lot of money for a single achievement. Kind of puts all those pesky microtransactions to shame, doesn't it? 

Train Simulator

DLC scenarios Total Owners: 995,000 Completion percentage: 0

Speaking of money, Train Simulator boasts some of the rarest achievements on Steam, but that's not because they're brutally difficult or stubbornly obscure. Heck, the achievement descriptions make it pretty obvious what you've got to do: the 'It Works For Dogs!' achievement reads 'Awarded for completing scenario [RailfanMode] Barking. It's not like the game's unpopular either, with nearly a million owners on Steam and a median playtime of a respectable 7.5 hours. 

No, what makes Train Simulator's achievements so rare is that fiendish friend of ours: DLC. Train Simulator is notorious for having the most expensive DLC on Steam, with its total value currently sitting at $6254.43 USD. Worse, Train Simulator ties many of its achievements to its DLC, leading to a wealth of 0 percent and 0.1 percent completion rates across the board.  

But that $6254.43? I'd want a real honest-to-god train if I was forking over that much cash. If it was anything like Train Simulator, though, it'd probably lock out the train whistle as premium DLC. Steam whistle: only $0.99 per toot! 

Ark: Survival Evolved

Artifact Archaeologist – You personally retrieved all Eight Artifacts! Total Owners: 4.7 million Completion Percentage: 0.2

A whole lot of people play ARK: Survival Evolved, and yet even the most common of its seven achievements has been earned by less than 5 percent of players. But while 95 percent of ARK players haven't defeated the game's first Ultimate Life Form, 99.8 percent remain vexed by its toughest achievement: 'Artifact Archaeologist', rewarded for retrieving every Artifact in the game. It sounds simple enough, but this is where ARK's nature as an Early Access game comes back to bite it on the rump.  

According to the achievement description, there are only eight artifacts in ARK: Survival Evolved. This isn't true. There are 14 artifacts in total, 10 of which can be obtained through normal play, 3 which are locked to the Scorched Earth DLC, and one which can only be spawned through a console command. For a game that has already seen its fair share of controversy, ARK has left quite a few achievement hunters pretty disappointed. Still, at least they can take solace in the giant bees that have just been added to the game. That's something, right?  

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Dragonrider - Tame and ride 5 dragons Total Owners: 11 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.8

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you've played Skyrim, or at least heard enough about it to understand the game's premise. You're the dragonborn, you need to save the world from an evil dragon, yada yada yada. In short, the game basically revolves around dragons. 

How, then, is the achievement for riding dragons so rare? Only 0.8 percent of the millions of Skyrim players have tamed five or more of the mythical creatures and taken to the skies, which makes exactly zero sense to me. Who wouldn't want a dragon as their personal chauffeur? It's not like you'd have to worry about anyone jacking your scaly pal; any thief foolish enough to try would be charred to a crisp before they could shout Fus Ro Dah. I guess Skyrim players are just too busy getting busy and fighting Macho Man Randy Savage to spend their time becoming certified dragon pilots. 

Black Mesa

Rare Specimen – Send the Hidden Hat to Xen. Total Owners: 500,000 Completion percentage: 2.1 percent 

Hats are all the rage these days. I have it on good authority from my stock broker that the hat economy is only going to go up—and that's coming from a man who wears a top hat, so you know it's legit. My wardrobe is already full of baseball caps, bowler hats, fezes, and beanies, just waiting for the day when my fabric fortune will be ready to claim. The only thing I don't quite understand is why my broker keeps mentioning Dota. Eh, never mind. I'm sure it's nothing. 

Video games, it turns out, are just as keen to cash in on the hat craze. Black Mesa, the fan-made recreation of the original Half-Life, adds in the 'Rare Specimen' achievement that tasks good old Gordon Freeman with locating a hidden purple top hat and lugging it all the way from the Black Mesa Research Facility on Earth to the alien dimension of Xen. It might not sound that tricky, but apparently Gordon's more interested in trivial things like saving the world instead of securing his future in the hat economy--only 2.1 percent of players have carried the top hat all the way to its new interdimensional marketplace. 

Wait, that gives me an idea. What if I started selling digital hats instead of physical ones? Ooh, I think I'm onto something here. I better stop typing before someone beats me to the punch… 

...

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